Choosing Your Response
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. - James 1:2–4
Speaking from his experience as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, Dr. Viktor Frankl made the profound statement, “Everything can be taken from a human being but one thing: the freedom to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstance.”
James would agree. In fact, he unapologetically challenges our attitude during difficult days and makes the rather startling announcement that we actually choose the perspective of joy. The word for joy refers to a settled acceptance. It isn’t the joy of happy times, balloons, and butterflies. It’s deeper—faith-anchored . . . spirit-surrendered acceptance of trials.
Put another way: you can’t choose your crosses . . . but you can choose your responses.
I can’t think of a better illustration than Old Testament patriarch Joseph. By the world’s reckoning, he had every reason to grow bitter and angry, living with a constant grudge because of the injustice of his brothers. They had taken him away from his father and sold him into slavery; he was falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison.
But when he was finally released from prison two years later, he wasn’t glaring at the guards or cursing God. Instead, we see him in Genesis 41 emerge with greater faith and humility. How? He believed that God had orchestrated everything according to His plan. He wasn’t able to choose his cross, but he could choose his response.
Howard Hendricks illustrated this in a story of his losing a game of checkers to a veteran champion:
The game started out well for him. After a few moves, his opponent put one of his checkers in the line of fire and said, “Jump me.” Hendricks did, scooping the piece triumphantly off the board. A few moves later, the same thing happened again. Hendricks happily took another piece from his opponent. But then the table was turned. The old man picked up one of his checkers and skipped down the board, jumping four of Hendricks’ pieces at one time, and said, “Crown me!” That was the beginning of the end for Hendricks.
After telling this story, Dr. Hendricks went on to say that no good checker player minds losing an occasional piece—and he can do it with joy—so long as he knows he’s heading for a crown.
Likewise, we can choose the perspective of joy as we lose earthly things, clinging to the promise of our future which will include glorious things. No matter what you’re going through today, will you choose to respond with joy, acceptance, and trust?
Trials are here on purpose for a purpose . . . and there’s a crown just ahead.
In what way are you suffering today? Remember that Christ understands what it is to suffer, as well. He knows the pain of rejection, persecution, misunderstanding, injustice and, even, death. So as you cast your cares upon Him today, remember to thank Him for being able and willing to bear your burdens as He shepherds you along His chosen path.
Read the reminder in 1 Peter 2
how Christ set the ultimate example for us in His own time of trial.
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